Jonathan Blakeley as Marty and Zoe Swenson as Jackie-O in The House of Yes.
BOTTOM LINE: A fun, dark comedy.
An obsession with the Kennedy assassination, a little problem with incest, and a possible murder in their past- and you thought meeting your in-laws for the first time was rough. Playwright Wendy MacLeod draws from Edgar Allen Poe, Noel Coward, and Harold Pinter to explore a privileged family from Washington D.C.'s affluent suburbia in her deliciously dark comedy The House Of Yes. Heathcliff Entertainment does a decent job of presenting this play of intrigue (which premiered in 1990, and was later made into a movie with Parker Posey) by capturing its Rocky Horror-like sense of mystery.
The play begins on a stormy Thanksgiving night at the Pascal household as Anthony, expertly played by Tommy Heleringer, informs his disturbed sister, who is affectionately called Jackie-O (Zoe Swenson), that her twin brother Marty (Jonathan Blakeley), is bringing a friend home for the holiday. This seems to upset the family, especially Jackie-O and Mrs. Pascal (Marcia Everitt), who points out "Marty never had a friend before." Things get even more tense when it is discovered that Marty's guest Lesly (Hilary Bettis) is not only his friend, but his fiancee as well. Lesly is a simple girl who just doesn't seem to fit in with this elite family- in more ways than one. Jackie-O's jealousy of Lesly is apparent and disturbing. Despite Anthony's best efforts to, shall we say, distract Lesly, she walks in on a rather unnatural moment between Marty and his twin sister (a moment triggered by a ritualistic reenactment of the assassination of JFK). The next morning all the Pascal family's dirty little secrets are revealed and we are left wondering, did the absent Mr. Pascal abandon his family of his own accord many years ago or was he the victim of something far more sinister?
This is a superbly twisted story, told with such clever wit that it is nearly impossible to mess up. No matter what, the strange situations and smart banter created by McLeod will keep one laughing. Heleringer demonstrates wonderful facility with McLeod's script with his underplayed Anthony. Whether he says something as off-the-wall as "I always carry crazy glue," or as simple as "you do" (in response to Jackie-O, who retorts "who does?" after Lesly confesses that she doesn't speak French), Herelinger's honest and sincere delivery makes everything he says engaging, and both his subtle reactions and clear listening are a joy to observe. The rest of the cast has a tendency to play only the surface of their quirky characters; fortunately the surface is still pretty interesting, and overall it is an entertaining production.
Director Brandt Reiter does a fine job with the pace and timing needed to make this witty play work. He creates an eerie mood, with a little help from the simple set, costume, lighting, and sound design that all successfully set the tone for the macabre atmosphere. If you enjoy quick wit, fun with subtext, and have a taste for black comedy, this is a play for you. Who can say no to The House Of Yes?
(The House Of Yes plays at Access Theater at 380 Broadway (between White and Walker Streets), 4th Floor*, through Sunday, May 2nd. Show times are Thursdays through Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 3pm. It runs approximately 1 hour 20 minutes with no intermission. Tickets are $18 and can be purchased online at theatermania.com or by calling 212.352.3101. For more information visit thehouseofyes2010.com.)
*Theasy Note: You must ring the bell. It is walk-up building, no elevator. There are two theatre spaces on the 4th floor and they are not clearly marked.